BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS
Giraffe Books, Quezon City, Philippines
Release Date: 2004
Distributors: Outside the Philippines: Amazon
Price: Up to $17.50 (Amazon)
Recipient of a 2005 Calatagan Award from the Philippine American Writers and Artists, Inc.
Giraffe Books is pleased to announce the publication of BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS, the first short story collection by poet, writer, editor and conceptual artist Eileen R. Tabios. To consider this book mere erotica would be too simplistic an assessment of Ms. Tabios’s latest effort. Ms. Tabios breaks boundaries in form and content—a consistently restless and exploratory approach to literature for which she’s well acclaimed in poetry—as reflected in poet-scholar Jean Gier’s “Introduction,” of which an excerpt states:
“We have here a counter-narrative that runs against the grain of the romantic notion of the artist, the genius in his garret, or in her expensive loft studio, working on some “pure” or original vision or concept. The New York City art world in these stories is itself stripped and exposed. You, the reader, are a voyeur into its intricate social and material network, not unlike that in the mansion from the Story of O by Dominique Aury (using the pseudonym Pauline Reage). The galleries of New York City provide the context. They are the mansion, the community, and city. But none of them, no matter how tasteful or avant garde, transcend the marketplace.”
Specifically, Ms. Gier notes how Ms. Tabios turns art world tales into exemplifying what could be “a doomed eroticism based on a society that profits from artists and art, diaspora, and elitist hierarchies maintained within the New York gallery world. These ekphrasic, erotic explorations of submission or domination, and all the labyrinthine machinations of power that lie between subject and object, reflect the global arena of politics and power, the densely layered realities of post-colonial hegemony.”
BEHIND THE BLUE CANVAS reflects the multi-layered approach for which Ms. Tabios is known for applying to her material, providing a multiplicity of ways with which the reader may engage in these works—whether as stories of love, lust, politics, power, art, poetry, or subverting social, sexual and political conventions, to cite among the possible contexts.
A rich, sensual collection of stories—a breathtaking, pulsating ride through art, sex, love and longing.
In reading the stories of Eileen Tabios, seductive in their imagery and language, we are drawn into a world peopled by artists, art lovers and art tasters who, variously, are either yielding to or struggling against the irresistible lures of passion. We are compelled to share the characters’ ecstasy or torment, recognizing the universality of their human engagements. Our recognition comes quickly, given the finesse and integrity of Ms. Tabios’ writing.
I wish more writers would find a way to work within the nexus of sexuality / writing and art. It often seems to me to be a geography of concerns that “serious” poets and fiction writers work around—that for all of the politics around sexuality there often seems to be little concern for the contexts and concerns of sexual people themselves. Eileen Tabios has made an impressive foray onto a contested terrain with these evocations of artists and their passionate entanglements.
—Tom Beckett, Forum Asia Magazine
Jean Vengua (Gier)’s Introduction to Behind the Blue Canvas is available online through THE HALO-HALO REVIEW, September 2015.